There are 11 statewide ballot propositions on the November ballot. They propose both statutes and amendments to the state constitution and continue the right, begun in 1911, for citizens to pass laws on an equal footing with the legislature.

But “confusing” is a word many voters apply to the wording of California ballot initiatives. Voters remain supportive of the process and citizens’ right to enact laws even though, according to a 2000 Public Policy Institute of California study, they find the process flawed and confusing.

The study found that 79 percent of interviewed eligible voters either strongly or somewhat agree that wording of initiatives is too complicated or confusing for voters to understand what would happen if an initiative passed; fifty-three percent believe voters are not receiving enough information to make informed voting decisions; and 78 percent also somewhat or strongly agree that initiatives “usually reflect concerns of organized special interests rather than the concerns of average California residents.”

Yet majorities in both parties also believe that the initiative process is a good thing for the state and that decisions made by voters are probably better than those made by the governor or the Legislature.

Here is a summary of the 11 propositions on the November ballot. More in-depth coverage of each initiative will appear closer to Election Day.

  • Proposition 30 (Governor Brown’s taxes to fund education) “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education; Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” — Increases personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years; increases sales and use tax by 1⁄4 cent for four years; allocates temporary tax revenues 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges.
  • Proposition 31 (State budget cycle) “State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and statute” — Establishes two-year state budget cycle; prohibits Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified; permits governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act.
  • Proposition 32 (Union fundraising) “Prohibits political contributions by payroll deduction. Prohibitions on contributions to candidates. Initiative statute” — Restricts union, corporation or government contractors’ political fundraising by prohibiting use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.
  • Proposition 33 (Auto insurance/drivers’ history) “Changes law to allow auto insurance companies to set prices based on a driver’s history of insurance coverage. Initiative statute” — Changes current law to permit insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver previously carried auto insurance with any insurance company.
  • Proposition 34 (Death penalty repeal) “Death penalty repeal. Initiative statute” — Repeals death penalty as maximum punishment for people found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
  • Proposition 35 (Human trafficking) “Human trafficking. Penalties. Sex offender registration. Initiative statute” — Increases penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15 years to life and fines up to $1,500,000; requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and online identities.
  • Proposition 36 (Three strikes) “Three strikes law. Sentencing for repeat felony offenders. Initiative statute” — Revises three strikes law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent. Authorizes resentencing for offenders serving life sentences if third strike conviction was not serious or violent and judge determines sentence change poses no unreasonable risk to public safety.
  • Proposition 37 (Genetically engineered foods) “Genetically engineered foods. Mandatory labeling. Initiative statute” — Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
  • Proposition 38 (Education, early childhood tax) “Tax for education and early childhood programs. Initiative statute” — Increases personal income tax rates for annual earnings over $7,316 using sliding scale, from 0.4% for lowest individual earners to 2.2% for individuals earning over $2.5 million, ending after 12 years.
  • Proposition 39 (Multistate business tax) “Tax treatment for multistate businesses. Clean energy and energy efficiency funding. Initiative statute” — Requires multistate businesses to calculate their California income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. Dedicates $550 million annually of anticipated revenue increase for five years to fund projects that create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.
  • Proposition 40 (Redistricting) “Redistricting. State Senate districts. Referendum” — Challenges California Redistricting Commission’s drawing of state Senate districts, suspends commission finding from taking effect, and places district boundaries on ballot.


  1. I have a NO vote for all of the items. I am totally disillusioned by our legislators. Next election I will vote for anyone who is not running for reelection just to get the incumbents out of office..

  2. Is the governor totally unaware or just out of touch with reality? We went through a mess before when he was governor, with that mental midget, Rose Bird, over the death penalty in this state. For my part I'd see the death penalty sped up remarkably. Texas seems to be dong a lot better job with it than here.